This Rainbow Orzo Salad makes the perfect summer side dish! Loaded with colorful veggies, fresh herbs and tender orzo pasta, all tossed together with a delicious lemon herb dressing and easily made in just minutes!
If you are looking for a fresh and easy summer side dish, then look no further! This Rainbow Orzo Salad is full of colorful veggies, fresh herbs, and tender orzo pasta all tossed in the most delicious lemon herb dressing! This orzo pasta salad is one of my absolute favorite go-to dishes in the warmer months and is one I love making for a crowd. The veggies add such a nice crunch to this salad and the orzo soaks up all that delicious lemon flavor from the dressing as it marinates. Such a great side dish when grilling chicken, fish and steak or you could even enjoy this all on its own for lunch.
This entire meal can easily be made in under 30 minutes and the most time consuming part is honestly all of the chopping. I really like to finely chop all the veggies as I think it makes the salad look so much better. This recipe uses so much delicious summer produce and is easily customizable to your liking.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Orzo pasta – I love the light taste of orzo in this salad, but feel free to use any type of small pasta
- Veggies – I used a combination of red bell pepper, orange bell pepper, cucumber, red onion, and fresh corn, but you can also use tomatoes, zucchini, or other veggies
- Fresh herbs – a delicious combination of fresh parsley and fresh basil
- Sea salt + ground pepper – for seasoning
- Lemon Herb Dressing – see recipe below!
How to Make Rainbow Orzo Salad
One of the many reasons I make this Rainbow Orzo Salad so much is because of how simple it is to throw together! Here’s how I make it in just 5 easy steps:
- Chop your veggies and herbs. This might be the most time-consuming part, but hey play that podcast or blast some music – I promise it’s worth all the chopping! I like to try to finely chop all the veggies because I think the salad just looks better visually and is more enjoyable to eat. You’ll also want to chop the fresh basil and parsley as well.
- Cook the orzo. Bring your water to a boil, sprinkle in some salt, and cook the orzo according to the package directions until al dente. Make sure to stir ever so often to prevent the orzo from clumping. Drain the orzo in a colander and run cold water over it until cooled.
- Make the dressing. While the orzo is cooking, you can whip up this dressing! Simply whisk together the olive oil, fresh lemon juice, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, oregano and salt/pepper in a jar or bowl and set aside until ready to use. Seriously SO good and is a dressing I have used for so many different meals! It honestly deserves its own post.
- Toss the salad. Mix together the cooked orzo, chopped veggies and fresh herbs in a large bowl and drizzle the whole thing with the lemon herb dressing. Give it a good toss, season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Serve immediately or marinate for a few hours before serving (I highly recommend this!)
- Marinate. Cover the orzo salad and place it in the fridge allowing the flavors to marinate for a few hours or even overnight. Serve and enjoy!
Homemade Lemon Herb Dressing
I can’t tell you how much I love this dressing. Bright lemony flavour, tangy Dijon mustard, delicious garlic and fresh herbs really make this the perfect dressing for this orzo salad because it tastes amazing and quickly gets absorbed by all the pasta and veggies! SO. MUCH. FLAVORS. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Olive oil – I like to use a good olive oil that doesn’t have to be expensive, just make sure it’s cold-pressed and organic for the most flavor (in my opinion)
- Lemons – I just love the bright, fresh flavor fresh lemon juice brings to this dressing. Feel free to add a little bit of the zest too for even more lemon flavor!
- Red wine vinegar – this adds a nice tangy flavor that goes perfect with the olive oil and lemon juice, but feel free to use apple cider vinegar or white vinegar if that’s what you have on hand
- Dijon mustard – this adds a little zip and helps to emulsify the dressing
- Garlic – I always like to use fresh garlic in my salad dressings, but a 1/4 teaspoon of dried minced garlic or garlic powder will work if that’s all you have
- Seasonings – a delicious combination of dried oregano, salt and pepper
Prepping and Storage
The great thing about this rainbow orzo salad is that it tastes great warm OR cold and will last up to 3 to 4 days in your fridge. Just make sure to store any leftovers in a sealed, airtight container in the refrigerator. You can easily prepare this orzo pasta salad ahead of time by chopping up all your veggies and making the salad dressing up to a day before making. I promise you, this salad tastes even better on the second day!
If you do make this orzo salad recipe ahead of time, make sure to reserve a little bit of dressing to toss right before serving. The noodles and veggies will soak up a ton of the dressing (which is great for flavor!!), but you’ll want to freshen it up with more dressing when it’s ready to serve.
Substitutions & Variations
- If you don’t have any orzo on hand, feel free to use any other type of pasta in a small shape or you could swap it with quinoa, rice or farro.
- You can also customize this salad to your liking by using a variety of different vegetables such as zucchini, grape or cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, broccoli, etc. and you could also mix in some chopped greens such as spinach, kale or arugula.
- Sprinkle in some feta cheese or goat cheese for a boost of flavor and to make this orzo salad creamier.
- Add in some protein such as shredded chicken, salmon, and shrimp or keep this salad vegetarian and add in chickpeas, white beans, pine nuts or other chopped nuts.
- Switch up the dressings with whatever you like best! This balsamic dressing would taste amazing in this salad or even a creamier tahini dressing.
More Summer Salads You’ll Love
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 10 mins
- Total Time: 20 mins
For the orzo salad:
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 orange bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 english cucumber, finely chopped
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
- 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
For the Lemon Herb Dressing:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (half a lemon)
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and sprinkle in a teaspoon of salt. Cook the orzo according to the package directions, until al dente. Make sure to stir the orzo every few minutes to prevent it from clumping. Drain the orzo in a colander and run cold water over it until cooled.
- While the orzo is cooking, whisk together the olive oil, fresh lemon juice, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, oregano and salt/pepper in a jar or bowl and set aside until ready to use.
- In a large bowl, mix together the cooked orzo, finely chopped veggies and herbs and drizzle with the lemon herb dressing, mix well until all combined. Season with additional salt and pepper, as needed.
- Serve immediately or cover and marinate for a few hours before serving or overnight. I highly recommend marinating as the pasta and veggies soak up the lemony dressing making the salad really flavourful. Serve and enjoy!
- Serving Size: 1/6th of recipe
- Calories: 250
- Sugar: 2.8 g
- Sodium: 308.9 mg
- Fats: 7.1g
- Saturated Fat: 1.1 g
- Carbohydrates: 8.2 g
- Fibers: 1.4 g
- Proteins: 1.2 g
* Please note that all nutrition information is just estimates. Values will vary among brands, so we encourage you to calculate these on your own for the most accurate results.